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The 10 Greatest MLS Cup Finals: What’s #1?

The Scene: When it comes to utter significance and importance to the league’s longevity, no Final can match the inaugural 1996 MLS Cup Final. In front of nearly 35,000 fans at Foxboro Stadium, DC United made the greatest comeback in Cup Final history to best the LA Galaxy 3-2 and complete the first MLS Double in league history.

The Build-Up: DCU had finished 2nd in the East behind Shield winners the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and LAG had rolled to an easy Western Conference title and the league’s 2nd best record. DCU and LAG had both overcome early losses in the playoffs by winning two straight games to make the Conference Finals, and both teams easily dispatched their penultimate foes to reach the first MLS Cup Final.

The Game: This game had it all. The Gals took an early lead, and then struck again in the 56th minute to “put the game away”. But it wasn’t over yet. With only seventeen minutes left, DCU got one goal back. Ten minutes later, they had tied the game to force the Final’s first overtime. Just four minutes in, Eddie Pope scored to give DCU the win. 

The Legacy: Beyond the fact that it was the new league’s first Final, the 1996 Final also featured the biggest comeback in Cup history. Watching DCU overcome a two goal deficit with less than 20 minutes to play likely sold many American fans on the excitement the league could provide. It also resulted in DCU beginning their dynasty and their completion of the first MLS Double. Oh, and did I mention the whole thing was played in a monsoon-like rain? All in all, I think it’s the best game in league history, period. So that’s why it’s #1 on this list.

If I forgot any of your favorites, or if you think my rankings plain stink, let me hear about it in the comments. In any event, I hope you have enjoyed this jaunt through MLS Cup Final history. Hopefully, the 2009 Final will be on this list soon, and will be better than the 2008 Final where the Crew overwhelmed NYRB. We shall have to wait and see.

Until then, please keep coming back to STO for the best news and commentary on the interwebs. Peace.